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Like everything else in life, every quality flooring job begins with a quality foundation. Most people skip right over their underlayment research in lieu of the fun part (flooring research!), but it is important to know your stuff. Which is the best underlayment for your hardwood flooring? Let’s take a look.
What is Underlayment?
Firstly, what exactly is underlayment? It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Underlayment is a protective layer that goes between your hardwood flooring and the subfloor. It comes in several different materials (more on that in a moment) and serves several purposes.
First, it provides insulation for both the hardwood and the flooring. Second, it adds soundproofing to the room, preventing too much echoing from the hardwood floor. Third, it adds cushion to your flooring, making it less harsh under your feet. And finally, underlayment prevents natural wear and tear from the hardwood and subfloor rubbing against one another.
What Are the Different Types of Underlayment?
As already mentioned, not all underlayment is the same. Each material serves a slightly different purpose depending on where you live and the layout of your home. Common types of underlayment include the following.
Rubberized asphalt underlayment is pliable, soundproof, and an excellent tool for guarding against scratches and other damage. Additionally, rubber is waterproof, which makes it great for insulating. Easy to install and durable underneath foot traffic, rubber is a great option for most types of hardwood.
If you are looking for a little more cushion under your feet, cork underlayment offers an extra measure of thickness and protection. Also durable and relatively soundproof, cork does a great job retaining heat. Because of its porous composition, cork does not offer the same measure of moisture protection as rubber. However, we will see in a moment why this breathability is not always a bad thing.
Foam and felt are cheaper alternatives to the above underlayments. Stapled into your subfloor, foam and felt provide cushion and a reasonable barrier against sound. While felt underlayment is relatively cheap and easy to install, it does not possess the same durability as rubber or cork. That said, in low-traffic areas, felt and foam work great for certain types of hardwood.
Things to Keep in Mind When Selecting Underlayment for Hardwood
So, how can you know which underlayment is right for your home and your flooring? It depends on several factors. Evaluate each of the following items before selecting your type of underlayment.
● Hardwood Material
Not all hardwood is created equal. In addition to different types of wood, flooring also ranges widely in quality. Each type of material requires something slightly different in terms of protection and maintenance. For example, soft, easy-to-damage woods must be reinforced by something thick and durable, like rubber. On the other hand, hard, high-quality woods usually stand on their own just fine and really only need felt or foam. If you aren’t familiar with the characteristics of your chosen flooring material, take the time to research them.
● Purpose of Room
Another thing to keep in mind is what the updated room will be used for. If it’s a low-traffic area that doesn’t see a lot of daily damage, you can get away with a cheaper underlayment. However, high-traffic areas (such as entryways and stairways) need a little more backbone to hold up against the workload.
● Subfloor Material
Don’t forget to evaluate the subfloor. The subfloor is particularly important when it comes to moisture protection. A plywood subfloor will easily mold, mildew, and rot if moisture becomes trapped inside, so it requires a more breathable underlayment such as cork. A concrete subfloor works well with rubber. Keep pliability in mind as well; if the subfloor is bumpy and uneven, you might have a hard time installing stiff cork over the top. A more flexible underlayment will be easier to install.
● Building Requirements
If you live on a 2nd floor over someone else, make sure that your building doesn’t require a certain level of moisture control or sound insulation.
Need Some Help with Installation?
Dalton Flooring has been doing business as a carpet and flooring store in Southgate for 40 years. We also have a new location in Rochester Hills, MI. We offer carpet consultations as well as installation from our variety of carpet selections. Whether you visit our store or choose to have samples brought to your home for a Free In-Home Estimate, we have a range of flooring designs and products to help you achieve your desired goals.